Planning an estate isn't something exclusive to eccentric billionaires. Everyone should have some sort of estate plan in place to ensure their financial matters are resolved quickly and expediently, and their family and loved ones lose as little as possible to taxation.
The most important part of estate planning is ensuring that you have a valid, up-to-date will. If you die without a will, the government will distribute your estate in accordance with provincial law. Only a will can ensure your wishes are fulfilled.
The best and safest way to create a will is to work with an expert, as many do-it-yourself will packages can leave details open to legal interpretation. Your will should be updated periodically and in consultation with your professional advisor, especially as you acquire new assets. You should also update your will if you have a new child. You should also be aware that if you marry, your existing will becomes invalid.
Distributing your estate is more complicated than simply dividing things among your heirs. You'll need to determine all of your assets from pensions, to investments, stocks and bonds, real estate and personal property. You'll also need to note which assets you own jointly as well as who the beneficiaries are for your RRSPs and insurance policies.
Once this is done, decide on your goals. You'll obviously want to maximize the value of your assets and protect them as much as possible from taxation. You'll also want to make sure you have enough liquid assets to handle your liabilities so your heirs won't have to sell off physical or investment assets.
Gifting assets before your death and establishing trusts are two good ways to help protect your assets from taxation. However, keep in mind that both strategies can be complicated by the individual tax circumstances of your survivors.
We understand that no one looks forward to planning their estate. We also know how important it is to you and your family that it's done right.